Sports Outside the Beltway

Just how often has Greg Norman come close to winning a major championship

Much was made of the Shark having the lead going into the final round of a major championship yesterday. The 2008 British Open marking the seventh time Norman didn’t win on Sunday when in that position. The one exception- The 86 British Open.

Gene Wojciechowski at ESPN writes-

Yes, this now makes nine near-misses in majors for Norman

I’m not picking on Gene, or maybe just a little, my main focus of what I write next is just how many near misses Norman has had.

Lets start with the obvious, 2nd place finishes in major championships. Norman accomplished this in

Masters- 1986, 87*, and 96
US Open- 84* and 95
British Open- 89*
PGA Championship- 86 and 93*

*- denotes a tournament Norman lost in a playoff

That is 8 times right there, and 5 of those are instances where Norman had the lead on Sunday.

If you count the 7 missed Sunday opportunities as near misses, add in the other times Norman finished second in a major, the total would be 10 not 9. The three majors that are to be added, are the 84 US Open, the 89 British Open, and the 87 Masters. I don’t see how you can’t count these, Norman lost all three in a playoff.

I’m not done yet.

Norman missed a playoff at the 89 Masters by one shot, Greg finishing tied for 3rd.
Norman opened the 1999 Masters, one shot behind eventual winner Jose Maria Olazabel. Norman played in the final group with Olazabel.
Here’s an obscure one, Norman finished 4th at the 1981 Masters. 3 shots behind Tom Watson. He opened the final 3rd in 3rd place, and just two back. I can’t say for certain, but there is a good chance Norman was playing with Watson on Sunday in 1981. The Masters used to pair players 1-3, 2-4, 5-7, 6-8. They did that till at least 1979 that I know for certain.
Another obscure one- 1982 PGA. Greg Norman entered the final round tied for 2nd.

So I will analyze the above.

Norman’s 8 second place finishes count as near misses.
The 86 US Open and 2008 British Open get counted also because Norman held the lead going into Sunday’s final round. That brings our total to 10.
Without reservation, I think the 89 and 99 Masters need to be added to the list. Norman had legitimate chances to win both. Maybe more so than either the 86 US or 08 British. In those cases The Shark was pretty much done by the turn.
The 82 PGA has the weakest case for being added to the list, Norman opened the final round five shots back, and finished 5th 5 shots behind Ray Floyd. Floyd wired the field that year, winning by 3 shots, and if I recall he made a Sunday double bogey on 17 or 18 or the margin would have been bigger. So I won’t count this major as a Norman near miss.
The 81 Masters is a little borderlinish, but I think it should be counted. Norman started Sunday 2 behind. I don’t know if he ever had the lead that day, but going into the final round you have to count anyone that close with a legit chance to win.

So the total for Norman’s major championship near misses is at least 13, definitiely not a total in single figures. Yesterday’s 3rd place finish earns Norman at least one more Masters invite. I strongly believe yesterday was the last time we’ll see Norman contend in a PGA Tour event.

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